Mertie’s Mondays: Blueberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is all well and good, but what about when you have an abundance of blueberries?

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Back in the 1950s fresh blueberries were only available in season. However, there were a ton of blueberry bushes in Marblehead. In back of the baseball diamond was a very steep hill, which soon turned into brushland. This stretched from the park all the way to the harbour. In this brushland there were occasional fires and, as you may be aware, blueberry bushes love to grow in ash. So we would occasionally go up there with pails and pick the ripe blueberries with the view to having our moms bake blueberry pies.

There were rarely enough blueberries left after we’d eaten more than we saved. I’m sure that Mom was quite amused at this. I think the blueberries mostly ended up on vanilla ice cream; I never remember her making a whole blueberry pie.

However, yesterday I saw some blueberries at the grocery store and thought to myself “You know, they’d be good in something or other.” When I got them home, along with a pot of whipping cream, I remembered that I had enough Bisquick to make biscuits from, so the answer was immediate: Blueberry Shortcake.

First, whip your cream. Place it in a mixer bowl, dump some sugar (around 1/2 cup) or Splenda in, then a couple of capfuls of vanilla extract. Turn the mixer on high and leave it for around 2-3 minutes, or until the whipped cream is stiff. Scrape it into a smaller bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge. Let the children at the mixer bowl with spoons to get the excess. We always looked forward to that.

Second, prepare the blueberries. Mom never made blueberry shortcake, but she did make strawberry shortcake. Her main ingredient was frozen strawberries (even when the strawberries were in season). I think her reason was that frozen strawberries had some strawberry purée with them, and this made a better shortcake in the end. I’ve not seen frozen blueberries (I’m sure they exist), but I think I’d rather make this with fresh.

Take 1/2 the blueberries (buy a basket or two), wash them, and put them in a bowl. Mash them with a fork until there is lots of juice and pulp. Put a couple of tablespoons of sugar or Splenda in it and mix that up. If there are no under-21s around, put a tablespoon of sherry or port in it. Mix it well and then put the rest of the blueberries in whole. Mix that around for a while, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the biscuits.

I found Bisquick in Waitrose here in London. I’ve never seen it anyplace else. According to the web it’s a mixture of flour, shortening, salt, and baking powder. So you could make it yourself if you are ambitious. However, as I’m not ambitious, I took 2-1/4 cups of Bisquick and 2/3 cup of milk and mixed them together. Meanwhile, I pre-heated the oven to 450° F/Gas Mark 7. You should mix the Bisquick and milk with a fork until it’s cohesive. Then scatter Bisquick on a kneading board and turn the dough out onto the board. Knead it 10 times or so, then roll it out to around 1/2″ (1 cm) thickness.

If you have a biscuit cutter, all the better. If not, find a relatively small glass (2″ across) and use it to cut rounds out of the dough. Place each round on an ungreased cookie sheet. You should get around 9 rounds out of the dough (gather the fragments together when necessary, form them into a ball, and roll them out again—repeat until there is no more dough.) Bake for 8-12 minutes, until they are golden-brown on top.

Now, to assemble your shortcake, cut the warm biscuits in half horizontally, and place them cut-side up in a bowl. Liberally spoon the blueberry mixture over each half. Then spoon whipped cream over all. What you will get is this:

Blueberry shortcake
The best dessert Mom never made

I roasted a free-range chicken tonight, boiled some new potatoes in their skins and mashed them in their skins as well. I made chicken and mushroom gravy by making a roux, adding chicken stock (and the scrapings from the bottom of the roasting pan) then adding that to a pot of button mushrooms I’d previously sautéed, I decided to try a very thick roux this time, using lots of flour. The gravy was quite stiff (not quite a pudding, of course) but very substantial. Peas rounded out the main course. The blueberry shortcake finished dinner off quite well.

Maybe the next time I get a craving for blueberries I’ll make a blueberry pie and think of you, Mom. But this dessert will have to do, for now.

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Author: Chris Hansen

Expat American living in London, now a British citizen as well. I was originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and that's where my mom raised me, so my momfood comes from New England.

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